Facebook Says Trump's 'Indefinite' Suspension Is Now Two Years Off The Platform, And Then It'll See If He'll Behave

from the i-mean,-it's-something dept

In case you've been living under a rock for all of 2021, following the January 6th mob attack at the Capitol, where then President Donald Trump went to social media and posted things that could be read as egging on his insurrectionist followers, Twitter and Facebook suspended Trump's accounts. A few weeks later, the still relatively new and untested Oversight Board that will review a few Facebook decisions agreed to review the Trump decision. In late April, it upheld the removal, but said that Facebook's decision being for an "indefinite" length violated the company's own policies, and told the company it needed to either put a time limit on it, or come up with an actual rationale for a permanent suspension.

Last week, Facebook announced its response: the suspension would now be officially for two years -- but that doesn't mean Trump will automatically get his account back (just in time to ramp up his 2024 campaign...).

We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.

At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded. We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.

When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.

As is alluded in that snippet, the company also announced an official policy that applies "heightened penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence." Just the fact that this needs to be its own category of content moderation policies should tell you something about the complexity of coming up with policies that can be equally applied across all situations. Every situation is different, and no policy is going to take into account all context. Two years is the new maximum suspension under this policy:

In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself.

Of course, the Oversight Board tasked Facebook with much more than just putting a timeline on Trump's suspension and Facebook buried all the details beneath the headline grabbing "two years!" announcement.

Most of those policies focus on how the company deals with high profile and influential users who are violating its policies, and how it handles whether or not certain user speech is "newsworthy" or not. In particular, politicians will no longer receive an automatic assumption that all their speech is newsworthy. Instead, that speech will be judged in the same way as anyone else's speech for newsworthiness -- or so Facebook claims. In all reality, the actual lesson in all of this is that it's not possible to judge things equally. There is always additional context that makes each situation somewhat unique.

So, honestly, the only real end result here is that politicians won't receive the assumption of newsworthiness and seem more likely to face suspensions under these new policies.

For another view on the details of how Facebook dealt with this, read Evelyn Douek's analysis, in which she suggests that Facebook is basically doing the least possible that it can, which is allowed under the somewhat weak charter it put on the Oversight Board. Many people have highlighted how weak that charter is, but this may have been the first time it's been put to the test, and shows that when Facebook really doesn't want to commit to serious change, it has ways to avoid it. I'm less convinced that's the true outcome here, and honestly given how the Oversight Board has acted so far, I suspect that this weakish response from Facebook is only likely to embolden the Oversight Board to continue to hammer the company over its failures, even if Facebook wants to avoid committing to real change in response.

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Filed Under: content moderation, donald trump, newsworthy, world leaders
Companies: facebook, oversight board


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  • identicon
    Glenn, 8 Jun 2021 @ 6:45am

    The "2-year clock" should start once he starts behaving himself. This is something he hasn't done yet and has given no expectation that he ever will. He's still crazy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Jun 2021 @ 7:17am

      Re:

      He won't. He's known to hold decades-old grudges over minor slights, so him going down in history as a failure is not something he'll ever shut up about. Meanwhile, his supporters have shown themselves quite willing to hand over money and even blood over false claims that he secretly won.

      Let's all just prepare ourselves for the reality of what comes next - another 18 months or so of insane conspiracy theories in the lead up to the 2022 elections where Republicans traditionally regain seats, followed by a 2024 election cycle that will feature Trump front and centre again no matter who is nominated. Let's hope the return to sane adult administration isn't just a blip.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 8 Jun 2021 @ 7:21am

      Re:

      How is he crazy? He is still pulling money, and views, has control over the Republican party, and has news hosts controlling the views of almost half the populace of the U.S. begging for his input.

      That's not crazy but successful. Sure, he lost the Republicans the House of representatives, the White House, and the Senate, just like he bankrupted a lot of business people believing his lies. He is a loser and a huckster and always has been, but he has a knack of getting people to throw good money (and votes) after the bad money in the hope that they'll be the ones who don't get stiffed, and then wave that money around as proof of his success while new sycophants pick up the bills.

      Nobody else has shown to this degree how to run a Ponzi scheme on a sustainable basis for multiple decades on end. That's not crazy.

      It's half the U.S. that is crazy, and banning all those crazies from Facebook is not really a viable option.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2021 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re:

        "How is he crazy? He is still pulling money, and views, has control over the Republican party, and has news hosts controlling the views of almost half the populace of the U.S. begging for his input."

        An idiot savant doesn't become less of an idiot just because there's one thing he's actually good at.

        Trump's sole card is that he is good at finding people who are dumb enough and gullible enough to believe anything from anyone who can keep the spiel up. A century ago Trump would have been the perfect carny barker.

        That doesn't make him any less crazy, or possibly just broken; Nothing he has tried his hand at has worked, in the end. He soars on a fountain of bullshit and the very second he stops spewing more of it and loses momentum, all his past failures start catching up with him.

        "Nobody else has shown to this degree how to run a Ponzi scheme on a sustainable basis for multiple decades on end. That's not crazy."

        He hasn't. He's tried to run some fifty-odd ponzi schemes which have all failed. His "genius" has just been in finding new suckers willing to give him their money, and knowing how and when to run, leaving his "partners" holding the bag.

        Making carny grifting into a lifestyle certainly isn't "sane".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2021 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      The "2-year clock" should start once he starts behaving himself.

      It really doesn't matter. It's probable that he'll refuse to use Facebook anyway, out of spite, and that in two years he'll believe it was he who broke off ties with them. If he does rejoin, he won't make it a week without doing something to get banned again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CJ, 8 Jun 2021 @ 7:46am

    Just in time for...

    ...the next general election, to drive all that traffic to FB. I'd act surprised, but between eternal cynicism at FB's motivations and large tech companies' inherent inability to use a calendar, I'm not shocked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 8 Jun 2021 @ 10:55am

    And Then It'll See If He'll Behave

    Fat chance! The lame duck whiner-in-chief just can't get out of his skin. Think about: if he had simply had handled the pandemic reasonably well, the left would have had much more problems competing for votes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 8 Jun 2021 @ 10:58am

    Facebook Says Trump's 'Indefinite' Suspension Is Now Two Years Off The Platform, And Then It'll See If He'll Behave

    Trump is about as likely to ever behave as a bear is to stop shitting in the woods.

    When he was elected, people kept predicting that he would grow into the office and start acting presidential, but he went the exact opposite and got worse by the day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 8 Jun 2021 @ 11:04am

      Re:

      Yeah him not behaving is a foregone conclusion the only thing up in the air is if they'll have the guts to send him to time-out again, something I'm really doubting given what it took for them to show him the door the first time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 8 Jun 2021 @ 1:16pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, Facebook permabanning Trump for being Trump would be akin to Dell permabanning Windows for being crappy spyware. Laudable gesture, not gonna last beyond the initial furor abating.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2021 @ 6:04am

      Re:

      "Trump is about as likely to ever behave as a bear is to stop shitting in the woods."

      That's unfair to bears. A bear can be trained and taught.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Jun 2021 @ 11:00am

    Oh look just in time for the next election, what a coincidence

    In all reality, the actual lesson in all of this is that it's not possible to judge things equally. There is always additional context that makes each situation somewhat unique.

    Not so much I'd say, the real lesson that's going to be taken from this is that nothing can earn you a permanent ban if you're rich and/or famous enough, the most you'll ever face is a temporary time-out, something which is sure to embolden the assholes that infest the platform even more than they have been.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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